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CPA Now
Feb 10, 2014

Let the Pennsylvania Budget Games Begin

By Peter Calcara, Vice President - Government Relations

It’s officially budget season, so let the legislative and political tussles begin. Gov. Tom Corbett unveiled his proposed fiscal year 2014-2015 spending plan to a joint session of the Pennsylvania General Assembly last Tuesday, Feb. 4. The $29.4 billion budget spends $925 million more than 2013-2014, doesn’t raise taxes, and continues the phase-out of the Capital Stock and Franchise Tax.

The PICPA applauds the governor for continuing to fund the Department of Revenue’s technology and process modernization project. While it’s certainly not a high-profile initiative such as funding public education, Medicaid expansion, or state pension reform, it is a project CPAs can love. The governor is proposing another $9 million to the effort in 2014-2015. This initiative is important to the department’s continued efforts to streamline internal processes and improve customer service to both the taxpayer and tax professionals.

Members of the state House and Senate will spend the next few weeks asking department secretaries and heads about the details of the $29.4 billion budget. They will drill down and look line-by-line at the more than 500 line items that make up this budget. Both the state House and Senate appropriations committees were scheduled to begin public hearings on Monday, Feb. 10.

Corbett’s three top priorities for the next year, as outlined in his budget plan, are job creation, economic growth, and continued business tax reforms; additional funding for public education; and access to quality and affordable health care for all Pennsylvanians.

While all laudable goals, few budgets are without policy challenges or political entanglements. The proposed 2014-2015 budget is no different, except that this year’s political gamesmanship is compounded by Corbett’s weak poll numbers, his bid for re-election, and Democratic legislators willingness to make the slogan “One Term Tom” a reality.

The Commonwealth’s fiscal picture will not help matters. Pennsylvania collected $2.4 billion in General Fund revenue in January, which was $43.5 million, or 1.8 percent, less than anticipated, which put the state coffers $40.9 million, or 0.3 percent, below projections for the fiscal year ending on June 30, 2014.

The PICPA’s role throughout the budget process will be to provide strategic guidance and technical expertise to the Corbett administration and state lawmakers as needed. We will continue to advance the basics of the Guiding Principles of Good Tax Policy and also promote the policy options that have been laid out in our Fiscal Responsibility Task Force report. Follow all the action via Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Disclaimer
Statements of fact and opinion are the authors’ responsibility alone and do not imply an opinion on the part of PICPA officers or members. The information contained in herein does not constitute accounting, legal, or professional advice. For professional advice, please engage or consult a qualified professional.